The White House

Clouds roil over the White House in Washington on the morning of Sunday, Dec. 30, 2012, as Washington has less than 48 hours to avert the ìfiscal cliff,î a series of tax increases and spending cuts set to take hold on Jan. 1. Republican and Democratic negotiators in the Senate were hoping to reach a deal to avoid going over the cliff on Sunday. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

By David Rohde for The Atlantic
Updated: December 31, 2012 | 10:39 a.m.
December 31, 2012 | 10:38 a.m.

Barack Obama said it himself in his first post-election press conference. Speaking at the White House on November 14, Obama said conversations with families, workers and small business owners along the campaign trail had left him convinced that average Americans deserved more from Washington.

“When you talk to these folks,” Obama said, “you say to yourself, ‘Man, they deserve a better government than they’ve been getting.'”

Exactly.

As 2012 comes to a close, partisanship is slowing our economy, making our children unsafe and reducing our confidence in the future. In 2008, egregious behavior by bankers and regulators could be blamed for gutting the economy. In the 1970s, high union wages could be blamed for reducing the competitiveness of American industry. Today, our political dysfunction is our biggest economic and social liability.

Example one: the fiscal cliff. After two months of absurd political posturing, the country is four days away from a wholly preventable economic body-blow that will stall a fragile recovery. The same dynamic that occurred last summer during the debt-ceiling fiasco is repeating itself. The failure to compromise on fiscal policy is eroding consumer confidence and slowing the economy just as growth begins to take hold.

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